Are you planning a trip to Salzburg and wonder what the must-see sights in Salzburg are? Don’t worry. We got you covered. No matter if you join the Free Walking Tour or not, Salzburg is the perfect destination for independent sightseeing.
The old town of Salzburg is walkable, and it’s easy to find the must-see sights on your own. Things to do and see in Salzburg are plenty, even if the city is small. In this article, we will cover 15 must-see sights and some of our favorite things to do.
How many days should I spend in Salzburg?
One day in Salzburg is enough to cover the most important places. If you have more time, however, you won’t get bored either. In two or three days you could cover the old town in more detail and include some off the beaten path places.
And then. If you are lucky to have even more time, you should plan day trips to the most popular places in the surroundings of Salzburg. Even if a day or a few hours is fine to explore the old town, and cover the must-see places in this article, consider staying longer in case you have more time!
What are the top tourist attractions in Salzburg?
This list contains the same sights as the printed Free Walking Tour city map of Salzburg. The list of sights in Salzburg is inexhaustible. This list contains some of the most popular things to see as well as some of our favorite places. Some of them are less known but none of them is really off the beaten path. They are must-visit tourist attractions.
The order in which we present these sights to you doesn’t reflect importance. It’s the same order as on our printed City Maps, the order in which we visit the sights on our walking tours and it’s an order in which you can visit the must see sights during your exploration of Salzburg.
1. Mozart Residence
The left side of the Salzach River is where most of the important sights are in Salzburg. Mozart too was born in Getreidegasse, on the left side of the river but he and his family moved to the other side when he was 17 years old. When Mozart was 25, ten years before his death, he moved to Vienna. Salzburg was too small for an ambitious artist. His father, however, lived in the house on Makartplatz, that known as Mozart residence today, until he died.
Even if the Mozart Residence looks like from the times of Mozart, it harbors a secret. During world war II, half of the building was destroyed by bombs. They then replaced it by an office building which was only taken down at the end of the 20th century. If you inspect the building, you will see a white line between the Austrian flag and the “Mozart Wohnhaus” sign. That’s where the old building ends and the recent building, reconstructed according to old plans, starts. The right side of the building is new, while the left side of the Mozart Residence is original.
Both the museum inside the residence and museum inside Mozart’s birthplace, I would recommend if you are a genuine fan of Mozart or if you are in possession of a Salzburg card. For everyone else, it’s enough to pass by and notice the historic sight.
Mozart’s Residence and Mirabell Gardens are the only famous sights on the left side of the river. The train station is on the left side of the river. Therefore you can cover both Mirabell and the Mozart Residence, while you walk from the train station and before crossing the river.
2. Mirabell Palace and Gardens
Mirabell Palace was built as a countryside residence for one of the most important archbishops from history, Wolf Dietrich, for his mistress and for their 15 children. I know, I know. Archbishop, mistress, children. A countryside residence because when he built Mirabell, at the end of the 16th century, it was still outside of the city walls.
Mirabell Castle as you see it today was rebuilt after a fire and also the garden was added much later. Historians are unsure how the castle looked like when it was initially built.
Inside the castle, the marble hall is the only place you can visit. It’s famous for weddings. If there is no wedding happening while you are visiting Mirabell, the Marble Hall is open and free to have a look at. Enter the castle and take the stairs up to the first floor. The rest of the castle is the city government.
Therefore Mirabell is more about the gardens, but the gardens are a special place of interest in Salzburg. Not only were they one of the primary filming locations of the Sound of Music, but there are lots of minor details worth noticing. The dwarf garden, the palm house, and the hedge theater, just to mention a few.
Mirabell Gardens is only 10 minutes walking from the train station. When you arrive in Salzburg you either arrive at the train station or at Mirabell square by bus from the airport. Therefore Mirabell could be the beginning of your sightseeing in Salzburg.
3. Mozart’s Birthplace
Mozart’s birthplace might be the most famous place in Salzburg besides the Hohensalzburg fortress. Everybody knows that Mozart was born in Salzburg, and Mozart was famous long before the Sound of Music. The birthplace of Mozart is in the most busy shopping street of Salzburg, Getreidegasse, which is a must see on its own.
Getreidegasse is the most popular place in Salzburg. It’s a shopping street famous for the old signs in front of the shops. Even if most of the shops are homes to international brands nowadays, these signs are not to be replaced. All the old town on the left side of the river is part of the UNESCO world heritage nowadays. Strict rules preserve the appearance of the buildings.
The birthplace itself is a house like all the other houses in Getreidegasse. There is a small square in front of Mozart’s birthplace. During the tourist season, Hagenauerplatz is constantly filled with a crowd photographing the yellow building which houses a supermarket on the ground floor.
The museum on the upper floors is one of the most visited museums in the world. On the first floor, the museum replicates the living conditions at the time of Mozart, the second floor is dedicated to his music, and on the third floor, where the family lived for 26 years, you will find instruments, documents, family letters, and portraits.
As mentioned with the Mozart Residence, I recommend a visit if you are a genuine fan of Mozart or if you are the owner of a Salzburg card. Otherwise, it’s enough to snap a picture and move on.
4. University Church
The University Church, also known as Collegiate Church, was built as a part of the University around 1700. You might have heard that Salzburg is famous for its baroque architecture. The university church is one of those baroque building. The most significant one after the cathedral.
While Italians built the cathedral of Salzburg, an Austrian architect built the University church. Fischer von Erlach was the same architect as Schönbrunn castle. Schönbrunn is a palace in Vienna and the most visited sight in Austria.
Fischer von Erlach built four churches in Salzburg, of which the university church was the last one. Because Salzburg is surrounded by mountains and space was limited, the University church was in fact the last historic building erected in the old town.
It’s not a popular sight, but stunning. The University church might be the most unique church you ever visited, especially with baroque churches. There are no paintings on the walls and no church benches. The plain white walls make it seem even more marvelous.
I recommend laying down on one of the diagonal benches in the crossing to adore the magnificent. I generally recommend visiting churches in Salzburg, no matter if you are religious. All of them are free (at least at the time of writing) and most showcase more art than any museum.
In front of the church, there is a daily market. Grünmarkt (green market) is the daily market in Salzburg. It happens daily except for Sundays. For an authentic farmers market, however, you would have to be lucky enough to visit Salzburg on a Thursday and head to Mirabell square.
5. Concert Hall
Behind the University church, you find the cultural epicenter of Salzburg. The Salzburg festival emerged during a time of crisis. In the middle of the 19th century, they rediscovered Mozart, but the first festival only happened after the first world war in 1920 about 100 years ago.
Today the Salzburg festival is the biggest classical music festival in the world. With 250.000 tickets sold during the six weeks in July and August, the Salzburg Festival is a force to reckon with. If you visit Salzburg during the festival, it will be a lot busier and more expensive.
We even call the area where the concert hall is the festival district. But don’t think of the Salzburg festival like you would of other festivals. Tickets are expensive, and the popular operas sell out at the beginning of the year. Most of the year there are no concerts and even if there are concert they happen behind closed doors.
You could see people in fancy dresses, before or after the shows, on the square in front of the concert hall, but free concerts to attend are the recordings on the screen at Kapitelplatz. You won’t notice the festival and the festival district is not the crowded area of the city unless people are gathering before or after a show.
The festival hall itself contains of three-part. Two of which are from the 20th century, while another part is from the horse riding school the concert hall originally was. That oldest part of the concert hall was in the Sound of music. Remember the concert at the end? The Edelweiss song? Not only was the concert hall a filming location. The Trapp family actually performed for the festival before escaping from the Nazis.
If you would like to see the inside of the concert hall, the only way is a guided tour. I would, however, recommend that guided tour. It would be included in the Salzburg card and in case you are not getting a Salzburg card, it only costs a few euros.
6. Saint Peter’s Monastery
Saint Peter’s Monastery is the founding place of Salzburg. Salzburg was founded in 696 by a Bavarian bishop. Saint Rupert founded Salzburg as a monastery, and that monastery has existed ever since. Saint Peter’s Monastery, therefore, is the oldest active monastery in the German-speaking region.
You can’t visit the inside rooms of the monastery. Only the two yards between the festival hall and the church of Saint Peters. But you can and must see the church and the cemetery.
If you followed my previous recommendation and visited the University church, you are about to find out why I called the University church unique. Saint Peters is the opposite. Dimly lit and covered in gold and paintings, it’s the jewel of Salzburgs churches.
Saint Peter’s church combines centuries of art history.
In the corner next to the entrance of the church you find two more entrances. Above the one entrance, you will notice a number. 803. That’s the entrance to the restaurant of Saint Peter’s which claims to be the oldest restaurant in Europe.
The entrance to the left is the entrance to the cemetery of Saint Peter’s which actually is one of the oldest cemeteries in Europe. They already used the grounds as a cemetery in 696 after the Christians first settled.
The cemetery may also be familiar to you from the film the sound of music. Saint Peter’s cemetery is supposed to be the place where the family hides after the concert. However, the producers of the film could not film at the cemetery and therefore rebuilt Saint Peters in Hollywood.
The caves on the side of the mountain are catacombs, but not catacombs as you know them from other cities. Historians believe the early Christians used these catacombs as prayer caves. I only recommend entering the catacombs with a Salzburg card because. With a Salzburg card, the entrance is free. But go to the entrance either way, because you will find the grave of Mozart’s sister!
When you walk through the cemetery starting at Sankt Peters church, you can either keep right or left. If you keep to the right, you will come to the funicular to the fortress while you will find the oldest bakery in Salzburg, if you leave the cemetery on the left.
7. Franciscan Church
Not only Benedictine monks live in the monastery of St. Peter but also Franciscans. These Franciscans have had their own church since they came to Salzburg around 1600.